The 25 Year Estate Conflict

Today’s New York Times includes a story by Charles V. Bagli titled “Family Feud Over a Will Nears an End After 25 Years.”  Yes, 25 years in the New York court system.  Two sisters, Evelyn and Diana, say that they had believed that their father had died broke and without a will in 1956. They say that they first learned, by happenstance, in 1983 that their father had owned as many as 100 properties in New York City and had left a handwritten will leaving them a portion of his estate.  Worse still, the sisters say that they own mother and brother conspired to keep the will and the property a secret from them.

Their mother died in 1993, but the brother, Walter Sakow, claims that his sisters knew about the will, that the properties were far fewer in number, and that the proceeds from the properties were used to his sisters’ benefit.

The dispute has wound through the Bronx Surrogate Court, the Appellate Division, and back.  The case is finally drawing to a close as a determination is made about what to do with the remaining seven properties, valued at $11.3 million in 2007.

What could drive a dispute to last so long? In large part because the judicial process has been unusually slow.  But, I often say that the combination of money and emotion is fertile ground for conflict.  This conflict has both in spades: millions of dollars and the sisters’ profound sense of betrayal by their own mother and brother.

Posted in Conflict Resolution in the News, Family Wealth Mediation, Monday, March 30th, 2009

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